Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Do Applicant Patent Citations Matter?

11 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2010 Last revised: 7 Mar 2015

Christopher Anthony Cotropia

University of Richmond School of Law

Mark A. Lemley

Stanford Law School

Bhaven N. Sampat

Columbia University - Mailman School of Public Health

Date Written: April 24, 2012


Patent law both imposes a duty on patent applicants to submit relevant prior art to the PTO and assumes that examiners use this information to determine an application's patentability. In this paper, we test the validity of these assumptions by studying the use made of applicant-submitted prior art by delving into the actual prosecution process in over a thousand different cases. We find, to our surprise, that patent examiners effectively ignore almost all applicant-submitted art, relying almost exclusively on prior art they find themselves. Our findings have significant implications for a number of important legal and policy disputes, not least of which is the soundness of the strong presumption of validity the law grants issued patents.

Keywords: Patent, Intellectual Property, Examiner, Inequitable Conduct, Presumption of Validity, Empirical, Prior Art, Patent Prosecution

Suggested Citation

Cotropia, Christopher Anthony and Lemley, Mark A. and Sampat, Bhaven N., Do Applicant Patent Citations Matter? (April 24, 2012). 7th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper; Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 401; Stanford Public Law Working Paper No. 1656568. Available at SSRN: or

Christopher Cotropia

University of Richmond School of Law ( email )

28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA 23173
United States

Mark Lemley (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

Bhaven Sampat

Columbia University - Mailman School of Public Health ( email )

600 West 168th St. 6th Floor
New York, NY 10032
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views